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Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh, Khmer pronunciation: [phnum pinh] is the capital and largest city of Cambodia. Located on the banks of the Tonlé Sap and Mekong River, Phnom Penh has been the national capital since French colonization of Cambodia, and has grown to become the nation's center of economic and industrial activities, as well as the center of security, politics, cultural heritage, and diplomacy of Cambodia.
Once known as the "Pearl of Asia," it was considered one of the loveliest French-built cities in Indochina in the 1920s. Phnom Penh, along with Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, are significant global and domestic tourist destinations for Cambodia. Founded in 1434, the city is noted for its beautiful and historical architecture and attractions. There are a number of surviving French colonial buildings scattered along the grand boulevards.
Situated on the banks of the Tonlé Sap, Mekong and Bassac rivers, the Phnom Penh metropolitan area is home to about 2.2 million of Cambodia's population of over 14.8 million, up from about 1.9 million in 2008. The city is the wealthiest and most populous city in Cambodia and is the country's political hub.
History:
Phnom Penh (literally, "Penh's Hill") takes its name from the present Wat Phnom ("Hill Temple"). Legend has it that in 1372, an old nun named Lady Penh went to fetch water in the Tonle Sap and found a dead Koki tree floating down the stream. Inside a hole of the Koki tree were four bronze and one stone Buddha statues.
Daun (Grandma) Penh brought the statues ashore and ordered people to pile up earth northeast of her house. She then used the Koki trunks to build a temple on the hill to house the five Buddha statues, and named the temple after herself as Wat Phnom Daun Penh, which is now known as Wat Phnom, a small hill of 27 metres (89 ft) in height.
Phnom Penh was also previously known as Krong Chaktomok meaning "City of Four Faces". This name refers to the junction where the Mekong, Bassac, and Tonle Sap rivers cross to form an "X" where the capital is situated. Krong Chaktomuk is an abbreviation of its ceremonial name which was given by King Ponhea Yat, which in full is Krong Chaktomuk Mongkol Sakal Kampuchea Thipadei Sereythor Inthabot Borei Roth Reach Seima Maha Nokor.
This ceremonial name is composed from Pali, and loosely translates as "The place of four rivers that gives the happiness and success of Khmer Kingdom, the highest leader as well as impregnable city of the God Indra of the great kingdom".
First recorded a century after it is said to have taken place, the legend of the founding of Phnom Penh tells of a local woman, Old Lady Penh (Duan Penh,) living at the chaktomuk, the future Phnom Penh. It was the late 14th century and the Khmer capital was still at Angkor near Siem Reap 350 km (220 mi) to the west. Gathering firewood along the banks of the river, Lady Penh spied a floating koki tree in the river and fished it from the water. Inside the tree she found four Buddha statues and one of Vishnu (the numbers vary on different tellings.)
The discovery was taken as a divine blessing, and to some a sign that the Khmer capital was to be brought to Phnom Penh from Angkor. To house the new found sacred objects, Lady Penh raised a small hill on the west bank of the Tonle Sap River and crowned it with a shrine, now known as Wat Phnom at the north end of central Phnom Penh. 'Phnom' is Khmer for 'hill' and the Lady Penh's hill took on the name of the founder, i.e. Phnom Duan Penh, and the area around it became known after the hill - Phnom Penh. Phnom Penh first became the capital of Cambodia after Ponhea Yat, king of the Khmer Empire, moved the capital from Angkor Thom after it was captured and destroyed by Siam a few years earlier. There is a stupa behind Wat Phnom that house the remains of Ponhea Yat and the royal family as well as the remaining Buddhist statues from the Angkorean era. In the 17th century, Japanese immigrants also settled on the outskirts of present-day Phnom Penh. A small Portuguese community survived in Phnom Penh until the 17th century, undertaking commercial and religious activity in the country.
Phnom Penh remained the royal capital for 73 years—from 1432 to 1505. It was abandoned for 360 years—from 1505 to 1865—by subsequent kings due to internal fighting between the royal pretenders. Later kings moved the capital several times and established their royal capitals at various locations in Tuol Basan (Srey Santhor), Pursat, Longvek, Lavear Em and Udong.
It was not until 1866, under the reign of King Norodom I (1860–1904) the eldest son of King Ang Duong, who ruled on behalf of Siam, that Phnom Penh became the permanent seat of government and capital of Cambodia, and also where the current Royal Palace was built. Beginning in 1870, the French Colonialists turned a riverside village into a city where they built hotels, schools, prisons, barracks, banks, public works offices, telegraph offices, law courts, and health services buildings. In 1872, the first glimpse of a modern city took shape when the colonial administration employed the services of a French contractor Le Faucheur, to construct the first 300 concrete houses for sale and rental to the Chinese traders.
Phnom Penh's Highlights:
Silver Pagoda, National Museum, Phnom Penh's Market, Tuol Sleng Museum, S-21, Sunset Cruise, Cooking Class, Lively bars, Cyclo